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Concerns surrounding murder suspect Jason Billingsley's release from prison

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Posted at 4:06 PM, Sep 29, 2023

BALTIMORE — Baltimore police say he committed two horrific crimes, then went on the run, all while lawmakers say - he should've still been in prison.

Jason Billingsley is back behind bars now, accused of murder, rape, arson, just to name a few charges.

But his case has politicians and prosecutors arguing for tougher policies for violent criminals, policies they say could have prevented the death of a young woman, and a brutal attack on a couple.

Billingsley is accused of breaking into a couple's home at a building where he worked as maintenance. Charging documents say he duct-taped and handcuffed a man and woman, raped the woman, slashed her throat, and then poured an unknown liquid onto the couple and set them on fire.

Police say just a few days later, he murdered 26 year-old Pava LaPere.

SEE MORE: Police say Baltimore Tech CEO's alleged murderer will "kill and rape again"

This all happened less than a year after he was let out of prison. He was released in October of 2022. Charged with a first-degree sex offense, in which he lured a woman into his home, strangled her, pulled a knife on her, and forced her to perform oral sex on him, Billingsley was offered a plea deal by the State's Attorney's office that shortened his sentence from the recommended 15-25 years.

He ultimately was sentenced to 30 years, with 16 years suspended, which means he'd be incarcerated for 14 years.

RELATED: The violent criminal past of Pava LaPere's alleged killer

"Why was this man sentenced to only 14 years out of what should have been a 30 year sentence? It’s ridiculous he got out so fast, but if he had a 30 year sentence like he should have had [...] My goodness, and I think the new prosecutor Ivan Bates will go for the hard jail time. But that should never have happened, it’s outrageous he only received a 14 year sentence. He should never have been out of jail."

The question raised by Republican Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready can be answered by looking at Billingsley's sentencing back in 2015.

Court records show Judge Emanuel Brown wasn't a fan of the deal. He thought Billingsley deserved "a lot more than" 14 years, calling the facts of the case, "horrible." He only went along with it because the victim was apparently happy with the deal, and "because of the trauma it would cause the victim to have to come in and testify."

But then, Billingsley only ended up serving seven years.

Why was he let out early? It's because of something called the diminution credits system, commonly referred to as "good-time credits." Inmates can earn these credits for good behavior, and participating in education, work, and special programs.

State's Attorney Ivan Bates suggested lawmakers take another look at that system, and that maybe all violent sex offenders should be ineligible for these types of credits.

"I think we need to see what we can learn from this and understand how the diminution credits work and how it's letting some individuals that may not be fully rehabilitated back on the streets maybe a little more quickly than they should be," Bates said at a press conference earlier this week.

Senator Ready says, Republicans have already put forth a bill that would make murderers ineligible for diminution credits. You can see that billhere.

He now agrees with Bates - we should add sex offenders to that list too.

"I’m not against good time and diminution credits for people in jail; I think that can be an important part of rehabilitation and also managing the prison. But when you’re talking about murderers - I don’t think rapists were even in that bill but we would certainly want that to be very clear; if you’re in jail for first-degree rape, first-degree murder, you should not be getting good time and diminution credits,” Ready said.

The Governor's office tells us - his administration is open to anything that makes Maryland safer. Now the question is - does that include another set of legislation that republicans have been fighting to get passed for the last three years?

It's called the Violent Firearms Offender Act. It calls for more jail time for gun crimes. Although it would not have applied to Billingsley, who was convicted of a sex crime, it's received renewed attention this week by lawmakers.

"We’re not talking about throwing people in jail for 10 years for stealing something from the liquor store or whatever. We’re talking about people who commit violent crimes with firearms that hurt people on purpose and they should get serious jail time," Senator Ready said.

In Billingsley's case, State's Attorney Ivan Bates has said he will seek the harshest sentence possible - life in prison without the possibility of parole.